Recently, I went with my boys to see A Dog’s Way Home. We were looking for a family movie to entertain us on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and though the preview looked a bit cheesy, we figured we’d give it a try.
Buckets of tears later, I admit I didn’t see the emotion of this movie coming. The plot is simple enough: a dog named Bella (which happens to be the name of my dog!) tries to find her way home to her owners after being sent away temporarily while they get a new house in order. Of course, the dog doesn’t know she’s not being abandoned, so she decides to take control and find her way home. The movie goes on to detail the dog’s many adventures in the miles she travels along with her various experiences with people and other animals.
What affected me so much about the movie was the emotion. I’m always urging writers to open up a vein and bleed on the page to inflict as much emotion as possible for the reader—without going into melodrama. The relationships Bella formed were real—from her adopted mother, to a baby mountain lion, to a group of ragtag dogs on the hunt for food. We are shown that some people are only meant to be in our lives for a little while—others forever. There are lessons to learn from every encounter in life—some beautiful, and many so painful we feel as if we’ll collapse underneath its weight. We meet some characters in order to lighten our load and make us laugh. And others are meant to be our soul-mates, whether in love or friendship. There are good people and bad. But the goal is to find that special place or person that completes us.
Yes, we need to be complete on our own first. But finding that special person we can be ourselves with, open up to, and be vulnerable in showing our love is a precious gift. Bella recognized her gift immediately, and searched hundreds of miles outside her comfort zone to find it again.
These big emotions made me think about the book I was writing, and my own life. Reminded me to try and be real and true and open. Sometimes, it becomes easy to bury myself in work and remain isolated from the outside world. I become my own world when I’m involved in a book and time blurs around me. It’s important to remember we need to experience relationships with others so we can continue to grow and experience new things and bring back our stories to the page. This keeps us fresh. It keeps us accountable to the trueness of the work.
I also believe we have many homes throughout our lives. Sometimes, they change—from your childhood home steeped with past memories, to the college dorm surrounded by other students, all the way to our first real apartment as we scrape for rent and proudly throw house parties with our friends, to our “grown-up” house where we may welcome a husband, children, and cook actual meals in a kitchen. They all blur together in my memory but each has a unique stamp—a right of passage in my life that defined what home meant to me.
I’ve been writing a series entitled STAY, and exploring the theme of home in each of the books. I’ve loved watching each of my characters struggle with finding their right path, and the choices love allowed them to make. Some knew who they were and where they belonged from the beginning. Others didn’t figure it out until the very end.
Using home as a key theme in your work can help you dig deeper into the story and motivations of your hero and heroine. Watching a simple dog movie ended up becoming a beautiful surprise—an opportunity for me to think about my journeys of home, and the ones my boys will embark on later in life, while I watch from the sidelines.
We may not have any magic red ruby slippers, but as the Good Witch said, we always had the power to go home, anyway.
All we have to do is create it.